CMV is a virus that affects 50-80% of people before age 40, and June is CMV Awareness Month. It is the most common viral infection in infants, can cause serious birth defects, and only 9% of women know about it-and that is why we need awareness. What is CMV?
Overview of CMV
Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a member of the herpesvirus family, and similarly, once it is in the body, it stays there for life. CMV is generally asymptomatic for those with a strong immune system; many people may not know they have been infected. For others, CMV manifests itself in cold-like symptoms-fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches, fever, etc. CMV can be much more serious for people with weak immune systems, such as those suffering from HIV/AIDS, going through chemotherapy, or taking medications that weaken the immune system.
CMV is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, including saliva, urine, and breast milk. Common contraction of CMV happens around young children at daycare or in a nursery where saliva is prevalent and can easily be passed to peers. According to the National CMV Foundation, as many as 75% of toddlers in childcare settings have CMV in their urine or saliva, making daycare workers and teachers are at a higher risk for infection from CMV.
Pregnancy and CMV
One of the greatest risks of CMV is in babies who are infected before birth, and 1 in 3 women who become infected with CMV during pregnancy will pass the infection to her unborn child. Babies who become infected in utero (called congenital CMV) are at risk for birth defects and developmental disabilities, and 1 in 5 children born with CMV will develop permanent health problems. Women can also pass CMV after birth through breast milk, but the effects of the virus are far less serious, and the child may not experience symptoms at all.
There is good news. CMV is preventable!
Prevention of CMV
Young mothers commonly contract CMV through their little one’s urine or saliva, so follow some basic measures to decrease your likelihood of contact, particularly if pregnant:
- Don’t share utensils, drinks, or toothbrushes.
- Avoid contact with saliva when kissing your little one.
- Wash your hands often, especially after wiping a nose or changing a diaper.
For daycare workers, preschool teachers, or anyone frequently around small children, it is important to maintain proper hygiene procedures like washing hands frequently, changing diapers immediately, and cleaning toys regularly.
Get tested! Ideally, you should get tested before you begin trying to conceive so that if CMV is present in your body, you can wait for the levels to decline. However, you can get screened for CMV during pregnancy as well, which will help you and your doctor assess the potential risks for you and your baby. If you find out you have CMV during pregnancy, talk to your pediatrician about having your baby tested for congenital CMV.
The doctors at The Woman’s Clinic would love to talk to you more about your risk for CMV and schedule a screening. You can make an appointment online with your doctor at our Jackson or Madison office.